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Inflammatory Cells Linked to Earlier Death From AIDS, Hepatitis C

February 6, 2014

This article was reported by AIDSMEDS.

AIDSMEDS reported on a study of the effect of inflammatory cells on alcohol abusers who are HIV positive or coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Researchers from Boston University followed 400 HIV-positive alcohol abusers, for three to five years, from 2001 to 2009. Half of the patients were coinfected with HCV.

The researchers tested participants for seven pro-inflammatory cytokines at baseline and tracked them through national databases to learn if they were alive or had died after the end of the study. Cytokines are proteins that help the body fight inflammation by notifying white blood cells to go to an area of inflammation. However, long-term inflammation is harmful and HIV causes chronic inflammation.

By the end of the study, 85 participants died, and the majority of them died from problems relating to AIDS or HCV. The researchers noted that high indicators of inflammation were strongly linked to greater risk of death in alcohol abusers. Regardless of whether participants were taking antiretrovirals (ARVs), the connection between high inflammation and death remained steady. A particular inflammatory marker -- interleukin 6 (IL-6) -- was the strongest marker of mortality.

According to Daniel Fuster, MD, PhD, researcher at the Clinical Addiction Research and Education unit at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, although ARVs can improve mortality, in most patients it does not decrease the harmful chronic inflammation. Fuster suggested research to study how to manage these patients' chronic inflammation.

The full report, "Inflammatory Cytokines and Mortality in a Cohort of HIV-Infected Adults with Alcohol Problems," was published online in the journal AIDS (2014; 1 doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000184).

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